UK: Consumers ready for Time of Use tariffs

Shifting electricity loads to times of renewable energy production and reducing peak electricity demand could assist greatly in markets adjusting to renewable energy based systems. Results from the first stage of a project assessing whether such goals can be achieved in the U.K. has found that many consumers are ready to embrace pricing models and technologies to deliver this.

"Our findings at this stage are preliminary, but we have seen a huge appetite from domestic customers for our Time of Use (TOU) tariffs and this particular program was actually oversubscribed, showing that customers are willing to take ownership of their electricity consumption in return for lower bills," said the communications manager for the smart grid project, Liz Sidebotham.

The project is the GBP54 million (US$81.84) Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project, which is testing how households use electricity, when they use it whether a shift in usage away from peak periods could be incentivized.

"Through these trials we’ve seen early signs that customers are happy to change their usual daily routines – putting their dishwasher on overnight instead of during the day for example – to benefit from a cheaper tariff," conclude Sidebotham.

The program has involved surveying around 1,000 customers and conducting in-depth interviews with a further 172. The CLNR is a joint project between the Northern Powergrid, British Gas, EA Technology and the Durham Energy Institute – which is based at Durham University.

Shifting electricity loads to align better with renewable energy production, either on or off site, could help countries such as the UK better meet electricity demand with renewable sources.

"The current debate around the capacity margin needed to meet the UK’s future energy needs has largely overlooked the role of smart grids and demand side measures, but if customers are willing to be flexible with how and when they use electricity, it would offer a cost-effective solution in the drive to create a sustainable, low carbon energy sector," said Sidebotham.

The CLNR program will continue to study consumption patterns, customer flexibility and trial new smart grid technology throughout 2013. It will publish the results throughout the year.